Flame On: Season’s worth of ups and downs in one game for Ryane Clowe — fight, double minor, game tying and OT Shootout goals lead to 4-3 win over Calgary Flames

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Saturday, February 26, 2011 - Save & Share - One Comment

It was not that long ago that alternate captain Ryane Clowe stepped in front of the media and called out his own team. After dropping a late lead and a winnable home game to the Vancouver Canucks on January 3rd, the rugged left winger criticized the Sharks’ third period effort as terrible. “We can’t figure it out. We just want to cheat at times,” he said. “I guarantee you right now there’s guys that don’t feel that tired after that game.” It was a sentiment compounded by a forgettable effort in Los Angeles and a late collapse against Minnesota. Clowe did not back down from his comments a day later, and several of his teammates agreed with his candid assessment. “Do you want to score four goals or do you want to win a game?” Clowe said. “Are you happy losing but with five goals? Losing 6-5, maybe? Or would you rather, like in LA, win 1-0?”

It was a put up or shut up moment for the 2010-11 San Jose Sharks. 40 games into the season, Clowe’s team had put together three or more game winning streaks only twice, and both of those were followed by a string or losses. In the short-term, the Sharks put their heads down and tried to play their way out of problems, but it didn’t happen overnight. A talented and potent offensive team, San Jose ran smack into perennial Vezina goaltending candidate Ryan Miller and 6-foot-5 Nashville phenom Pekka Rinne. San Jose started clicking defensively and as a 20-man unit, but goal scoring evaporated. After a team meeting with GM Doug Wilson, and a back to the basics X’s and O’s session with head coach Todd McLellan, the stunned Conference Finalists still saw themselves staring at a 6-game losing streak heading into mid-January. It was the longest losing streak for the franchise in almost 14 years.

Clowe’s criticism, and the team’s response, identified the problem but it also identified the solution. Players were trying to do too much individually. A strong effort by 14 or 15 players could be undermined by a few players having a weak shift, period or game. On the outside of the playoff window looking in at the ASG break, the solution for the San Jose Sharks sounds like a string of motivational hockey cliches. Put forth a more complete 60 minute effort, roll 4 lines, harden play in their own defensive zone. Sound, fundamental hockey. It was a simple plan, but it worked. Bolstered with new additions up front in Kyle Wellwood and Ben Eager, the Sharks reeled off 5 wins in their next 6 games, earning 11 of a possible 12 points. The season long 7-game “tennis” road trip provided a readymade excuse for another setback, but they didn’t bite. With wins over Anaheim, Boston, Washington and Nashville, the Sharks won 5 of 7 and were mad at themselves for a pair of late leads that did not hold up.

“We have gone through a lot of adversity not only tonight, but throughout the year. Maybe we have learned some lessons along the way,” San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said Friday night. “It doesn’t mean it is going to get any easier. It doesn’t mean we won’t have bumps, it doesn’t mean we won’t have off nights. Now the guys seem to be pulling together. It is not about goals and assists and who is leading the team in scoring, it is about winning. It is working for us.”

A byproduct of the Sharks turnaround, more than confidence or team cohesion, was the ability to overcome any manner of obstacle. That would come into play Friday night at the Saddledome in a 4-3 OT shootout win over the Calgary Flames. Once again, Ryane Clowe was front and center with a game that could encapsulate the entire Sharks season. After a second period 2-1 lead collapsed with goals by David Moss and Niklas Hagman, Clowe took a marginal holding penalty with 43 seconds left. It was similar to the hand on shoulder holding call Devin Setoguchi took in the third period against Pittsburgh, but in Calgary there was a defensive hand on the shoulder for almost every play in the d-zone on both sides. Frustrated, Clowe yelled at the official and drew an extra unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Now in addition to overcoming the prevent offense trap of Calgary, San Jose would be forced to kill off a 4 minute double minor.

“I was frustrated,” Clowe told Comcast Sportsnet California. “Obviously I play the game on the edge. I was playing hard. Sometimes when you get in that rythmn, it’s a man’s game… My wires were crossed and I lost it. It was a selfish penalty, a penalty that can’t happen. You are down 3-2, it is just a selfish penalty.” Clowe did not hold back, calling himself out on the play. “It was a selfish penalty, I would have been upset if someone else had taken it. That can’t happen again, it won’t happen again.” The Sharks penalty kill bailed him out, but they could not put up the equalizer on the other side of the ledger. On a pair of third period power plays, the Sharks had trouble through the neutral zone and barely tested goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.

It was an unusual night in Calgary. Expecting an aggressive Calgary Flames squad battling for their playoff life, there were stretches of off play in all 3 periods. The Sharks were not on their game for 60 minutes either, looking somewhat weary after back-to-back games against Detroit and Pittsburgh earlier in the week. For what it is worth, Calgary looked less off for more of the game, and they found themselves with a 3-2 lead in the third period as a result. Instead of getting the puck deep, forcing the Sharks defense to turn, and hammering bodies on the forecheck, Calgary played it differently. They chose to push the puck up ice, win smaller positional battles and hold on for a one goal lead. Against a Sharks side that is firing on all cylinders, that is a recipe for destruction.

On this night, it almost worked. With Calgary slow footed and chasing the play in their own zone, newly acquired defenseman and former Flame and Hurricane Ian White fired a pair of shots from the point. One deflected off the end boards in front of the net, and the other deflected off traffic and into the corner. Multiple Sharks won each race to the loose puck. After winning another outmanned opportunity along the halfboards, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley combined to get the puck to Clowe in the slot. Clowe buried the game tying goal at 17:26.

The game would be decided by an overtime shootout. The Sharks have the slimmest of playoff cushions with 19 games remaining, but despite winning 11 of their last 16, the Flames were still treading water in the playoff race. Prior to Friday night, Calgary was tied with 4 other teams for the final 3 playoff spots in the West. A new tiebreaker for the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Playoffs will come down to regulation and overtime wins, nullifying those obtained in the OT shootout. Unfortunately for Calgary, they are on pace for a Western Conference high of 9. The Sharks can be happy with 2 points, but from here on out Calgary needs to win in regulation or OT.

After Kyle Wellwood and Joe Pavelski missed shootout attempts for San Jose, and Rene Bourque and Alex Tangauy missed for Calgary, the game would be on Clowe’s stick. The left shooting Clowe has been going to the well with his forehand to backhand up high move, but he would mix it up against former teammate Kiprusoff. Clowe deked, then broke his wrists forehand. The 225-pound Newfoundlander quickly deked again backhand before tapping in a goal forehand. Kiprusoff did not bite on any of the early dekes, but he pushed hard to his left as Clowe deposited an easy shot on the other side. Olli Jokinen missed on the other end of the ice for Calgary.

Discussing his signature backhand up high move, Clowe told CSNCA that he wanted to mix it up. “Sometimes I like to use that more back East, and try to switch it up a little more in the West. I am sure guys like to watch highlights a little bit,” Clowe said. “I really wanted to sell the backhand. That is usually my goto move. I have been working on this in practice, sometimes you don’t get the courage to try it in a game. I’ve done it before, and it worked out.”

Clowe’s answer to a question about his game winning shootout goal says a lot about where the team is at now, after a season high tying 6th straight win. “You play to win, but it doesn’t matter how that game finished. We played really hard tonight. We were positive on the bench, the coaches were positive between periods. We knew we were coming.” It is a message that could be directed towards the Sharks final 19 game stretch run of the season.

The Sharks are coming.

Game Notes:

GAME NOTES: Devin Setoguchi scored his 18th goal of the season with a diving play through traffic in front of the crease. Setoguchi now has 11 goals and 5 assists in his last 15 games. Kyle Wellwood scored his third goal as a San Jose Shark. Wellwood and Mayers hounded the crease after a turnover in the offensive zone created by linemate Joe Pavelski. Niemi earned his 6th straight win stopping 21 of 24 shots. The Sharks earned their 6th straight win, tying a season high, but also tied a franchise high of 8 road wins in a single month. Ben Eager and Ryane Clowe each dropped the gloves with Calgary Flames right wing Tim Jackson in the first and second period respectively. Clowe dominated Jackson to the point where he had to hold himself back and let the referees step in. Defenseman Dan Boyle missed his first game of the season after suffering an undisclosed injury late in the game against Pittsburgh. Scott Nichol and Kent Huskins were also scratched for San Jose. Rookie offensive defenseman Justin Braun played in only his 16th game of the year, registering 18:47 of ice time. After starting in his 18th straight game, Comcast guest analyst and Yahoo Sports editor Ross McKeon noted that Niemi’s performance on Anton Babchuk’s first period goal may be a sign of fatigue. The Sharks have 3 days off before playing the first of 6 straight games at home in San Jose. The Sharks had a goal by Niklas Wallin disallowed with 3.3 seconds remaining in the first period. The February 28th NHL trade deadline will fall on Monday at 9AM.

[Update] Ryane Clowe makes up for miscue as San Jose Sharks stay hot – San Jose Mercury News.

[Update2] Flames fall in shootout – Calgary Sun.

Redemption didn’t last long for Niklas Hagman.

Although one of the best moments of the night in an entertaining but ultimately upsetting 4-3 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks came when the beleaguered Calgary Flames winger snapped a 16-game scoring slump to give the home side a lead that would last until the dying minutes of regulation, one of the most disappointing also took place with Hagman on the ice.

The only thing that overshadowed Hagman’s tremendous highlight-reel goal that gave the Flames their first lead late in the second period was the clutch performance from Ryane Clowe. With just 2:30 left in the third period, Clowe found a way to evade Hagman and the rest of the Flames to get at the net and force extra time with his 18th goal of the season.

[Update3] Flames let Sharks wriggle off the hook, Ryane Clowe clobbers Calgary with late tying goal, shootout winner – Calgary Herald.

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One Response to “Flame On: Season’s worth of ups and downs in one game for Ryane Clowe — fight, double minor, game tying and OT Shootout goals lead to 4-3 win over Calgary Flames”

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Time March 14, 2011 at 4:45 PM

[...] Sharks were mired in an up and down start to the season, but offensive production by Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe helped buoy the team [...]